Includes Security, SRM, Cloud, ICM, SaaS, Business Intelligence, Data Warehouse, Database Appliances, NFM, Storage Management.
This section covers all forms of technologies that impact IT infrastructure management. Taneja Group analysts particularly focus on the interplay between server virtualization and storage, with and without virtualization, and study the impact on performance, security and management of the IT infrastructure. This section also includes all aspects of storage management (SRM, SMI-S) and the role of cross correlation engines on overall performance of an application. Storage virtualization technologies (In-band, Out-of-band, split path architectures or SPAID) are all covered in detail. Data Security, whether for data in-flight or at-rest and enterprise level key management issues are covered along with all the players that make up the ecosystems.
As databases continue to grow larger and more complex they present issues in terms of security, performance and management. Taneja Group analysts cover the vendors and the technologies that harness the power of archiving to reduce the size of active databases. We also cover specialized database appliances that have become the vogue lately. All data protection issues surrounding databases are also covered in detail. We write extensively on this topic for the benefit of the IT user.
Storage has long been a major source of operational and architectural challenges for IT practitioners, but today these challenges are most felt in the virtual infrastructure. The challenges are sprung from the physicality of storage – while the virtual infrastructure has made IT entirely more agile and adaptable than ever before, storage still depends upon digital bits that are permanently stored on a physical device somewhere within the data center.
For practitioners who have experienced the pain caused by this – configuration hurdles, painful data migrations, and even disasters – the idea of software-defined storage likely sounds somewhat ludicrous. But the term also holds tremendous potential to change the way IT is done by tackling this one last vestige of the traditional, inflexible IT infrastructure.
The reality is that software-defined storage isn’t that far away. In the virtual infrastructure, a number of vendors have long offered Virtual Storage Appliances (VSAs) that can make storage remarkably close to software-defined. These solutions allow administrators to easily and rapidly deploy storage controllers within the virtual infrastructure, and equip either networked storage pools or the direct-attached storage within a server with enterprise-class storage features that are consistent and easily managed by the virtual administrator, irrespective of where the virtual infrastructure is (in the cloud, or on premise). Such solutions can make comprehensive storage functionality available in places where it could never be had before, allow for higher utilization of stranded pools of storage (such as local disk in the server), and enable a homogeneous management approach even across many distributed locations.
The 2012-2013 calendar years have brought an increasing amount of attention and energy in the VSA marketplace. While the longest established, major vendor VSA solution in the marketplace has been HP’s StoreVirtual VSA, in 2013 an equally major vendor – VMware – introduced a similar, software-based, scale-out storage solution for the virtual infrastructure – VSAN. While VMware’s VSAN does not directly carry a VSA moniker, and in fact stands separate from VMware’s own vSphere Storage Appliance, VSAN has an architecture very similar to the latest generation of HP’s own StoreVirtual VSA. Both of these products are scale-out storage software solutions that are deployed in the virtual infrastructure and contain solid-state caching/tiering capabilities that enhance performance and make them enterprise-ready for production workloads. VMware’s 2013 announcement finally meant HP is no longer the sole major vendor (Fortune 500) with a primary storage VSA approach. This only adds validation to other vendors who have long offered VSA-based solutions, vendors like FalconStor, Nexenta, and StorMagic.
We’ve turned to a high level assessment of five market leaders who are today offering VSA or software storage in the virtual infrastructure. We’ve assessed these solutions here with an eye toward how they fit as primary storage for the virtual infrastructure. In this landscape, we’ve profiled the key characteristics and capabilities critical to storage systems fulfilling this role. At the end of our assessment, clearly each solution has a place in the market, but not all VSA solutions are ready for primary storage. Those that are, may stand to reinvent the practice of storage in customer data centers.
Hadoop is coming to enterprise IT in a big way. The competitive advantage that can be gained from analyzing big data is just too “big” to ignore. And the amount of data available to crunch is only growing bigger, whether from new sensors, capture of people, systems and process “data exhaust”, or just longer retention of available raw or low-level details. It’s clear that enterprise IT practitioners everywhere are soon going to have to operate scale-out computing platforms in the production data center, and being the first, most mature solution on the scene, Hadoop is the likely target. The good news is that there is now a plethora of Hadoop infrastructure options to choose from to fit almost every practical big data need – the challenge now for IT is to implement the best solutions for their business client needs.
While Apache Hadoop as originally designed had a relatively narrow application for only certain kinds of batch-mode parallel algorithms applied over unstructured (or semi-structured depending on your definition) data, because of its widely available open source nature, commodity architecture approach, and ability to extract new kinds of value out of previously discarded or ignored data sets, the Hadoop ecosystem is rapidly evolving and expanding. With recent new capabilities like YARN that opens up the main execution platform to applications beyond batch MapReduce, the integration of structured data analysis, real-time streaming and query support, and the roll out of virtualized enterprise hosting options, Hadoop is quickly becoming a mainstream data processing platform.
There has been much talk that in order to derive top value from big data efforts, rare and potentially expensive data scientist types are needed to drive. On the other hand, there is an abundance of higher level analytical tools and pre-packaged applications emerging to support the existing business analyst and user with familiar tools and interfaces. While completely new companies have been founded on the exciting information and operational intelligence gained from exploiting big data, we expect wider adoption by existing organizations based on augmenting traditional lines of business with new insight and revenue enhancing opportunity. In addition, a Hadoop infrastructure serves as a great data capture and ETL base for extracting more structured data to feed downstream workflows, including traditional BI/DW solutions. No matter how you want to slice it, big data is becoming a common enterprise workload, and enterprise IT infrastructure folks will need to deploy, manage, and provide Hadoop services to their businesses.
In their quest to achieve better storage performance for their critical applications, mid-market customers often face a difficult quandary. Whether they have maxed out performance on their existing iSCSI arrays, or are deploying storage for a new production application, customers may find that their choices force painful compromises.
When it comes to solving immediate application performance issues, server-side flash storage can be a tempting option. Server-based flash is pragmatic and accessible, and inexpensive enough that most application owners can procure it without IT intervention. But by isolating storage in each server, such an approach breaks a company's data management strategy, and can lead to a patchwork of acceleration band-aids, one per application.
At the other end of the spectrum, customers thinking more strategically may look to a hybrid or all-flash storage array to solve their performance needs. But as many iSCSI customers have learned the hard way, the potential performance gains of flash storage can be encumbered by network speed. In addition to this performance constraint, array-based flash storage offerings tend to touch multiple application teams and involve big dollars, and may only be considered a viable option once pain points have been thoroughly and widely felt.
Fortunately for performance-challenged, iSCSI customers, there is a better alternative. Astute Networks ViSX sits in the middle, offering a broader solution than flash in the server, bust cost effective and tactically achievable as well. As an all-flash storage appliance that resides between servers and iSCSI storage arrays, ViSX complements and enhances existing iSCSI SAN environments, delivering wire-speed storage access without disrupting or forcing changes to server, virtual server, storage or application layers. Customers can invest in ViSX before their performance pain points get too big, or before they've gone down the road of breaking their infrastructure with a tactical solution.
Taneja Group and InfoStor jointly ran a survey asking IT managers about their experience with corporate file sharing. Taneja Group defines corporate file sharing as the ability to share large numbers of files between business users across networks and mobile devices.
File sharing heavily intersects with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the cloud. BYOD is the phenomenon of employees using personal mobile devices for personal and business applications and data access. File sharing as a business usage is closely associated with BYOD as end users seek to easily share files between their own and others’ multiple computing devices.
File sharing is also bound up with cloud usage. File sharing on mobile devices does not strictly require file sharing services using the cloud; basic secure sharing can be done via VPN just as one would email a file or share its pathname over the LAN. However, this solution is less than ideal for file sharing because it is poorly scalable and lacks any file sharing application functionality.
In contrast, most file sharing products use the cloud because the environment is highly scalable and delivers application functionality such as file versioning and locking. Many file sharing products also use the cloud to host a shared file repository, and most integrate with Active Directory and other SAML-based access management applications. Given a huge growth in data files and in mobile access needs, this approach is far superior to simply sending files using VPN connections.
This is no surprise to end users, who happily use file sharing applications like Dropbox to easily share files. Yet not all file sharing applications are created equal and consumer file sharing applications can threaten corporate data security. Vendors are quickly developing business- and enterprise-level file sharing applications in response to valid concerns about file sharing security, scalability, management, usability and compliance.
These are serious questions and should be serious concerns for IT in businesses of any size. However, our survey found that although some respondents have file sharing solutions and policies already in place, many did not. Some respondents have solid short-term plans to do so but others have no plans in place. Why? Taneja Group has observed that when IT denies a need for secure file sharing in a BYOD environment, they usually lack the time, sense of urgency, executive support and/or budget to deal effectively with the problem.
For more on file collaboration/BYOD issues and vendors, download Taneja Group’s File Collaboration Landscape Market Report.
Object storage has long been pigeon-holed as a necessary overhead expense for long-term archive storage, a data purgatory one step before tape or deletion. In our experience, we have seen many IT shops view object storage more as something exotic they have to implement to meet government regulations rather than as a competitive strategic asset that can help their businesses make money.
Normally when companies invest in high-end IT assets like enterprise-class storage, they hope to re-coup those investments in big ways like accelerating the performance of market competitive applica-tions or efficiently consolidating data centers. Maybe they are even starting to analyze big data to find better ways to run the business. There are far more opportunities to be sure, but these kinds of “money-making” initiatives have been mainly associated with “file” and “block” types of storage – the primary storage commonly used to power databases, host office productivity applications, and build pools of shared resources for virtualization projects. But that’s about to change. If you’ve intentionally dismissed or just over-looked object storage it is time to take deeper look. Today’s object storage provides brilliant capabilities for enhancing productivity, creating global platforms and developing new revenue streams.
Object storage has been evolving from its historical second tier data dumping ground into a value-building primary storage platform for content and collaboration. And the latest high performance cloud storage solutions could transform the whole nature of enterprise data storage. To really exploit this new generation of object storage, it is important to understand not only what it is and how it has evolved, but to start thinking about how to harness its emerging capabilities in building net new business.
Taneja Group conducted in-depth telephone interviews with six Virtual Instruments (VI) customers. The customers represented enterprises from different industry verticals. The interviews took place over a 3-month period in late 2012 and early 2013. We were pursuing user insights into how VI is bringing new levels of performance monitoring and troubleshooting to customers running large virtualized server and storage infrastructures.
Running large virtualized data centers with hundreds or even thousands of servers, petabytes of data and a large distributed storage network, requires a comprehensive management platform. Such a platform must provide insight into performance and enable proactive problem avoidance and troubleshooting to drive both OPEX and CAPEX savings. Our interviewees revealed that they consider VI to be an invaluable partner in helping to manage the performance of their IT infrastructure supporting mission critical applications.
VI’s expertise and the VirtualWisdom platform differ significantly from other tools’ monitoring, capacity planning and trending capabilities. Their unique platform approach provides true, real-time, system-wide visibility into performance—and correlates data from multiple layers—for proactive remediation of problems and inefficiencies before they affect application service levels. Other existing tools have their usefulness, but they don’t provide the level of detail required for managing through the layers of abstraction and virtualization that characterize today’s complex enterprise data center.
Most of the representative companies were using storage array-specific or fabric device monitoring tools but not system-wide performance management solutions. They went looking for a more comprehensive platform that would monitor, alert and remediate the end-to-end compute infrastructure. The customers we interviewed talked about why they needed this level of instrumentation and why they chose VI over other options. Their needs fell into 6 primary areas:
1. Demonstrably decrease system-wide CAPEX and OPEX while getting more out of existing assets.
2. Align expenditures on server, switch and storage infrastructure with actual requirements.
3. Proactively improve data center performance including mixed workloads and I/O.
4. Manage and monitor multiple data centers and complex computing environments.
5. Troubleshoot performance slowdowns and application failures across the stack.
6. Create customized dashboards and comprehensive reports on the end-to-end environment.
The consensus of opinion is that VI’s VirtualWisdom is by far the best solution for meeting complex data center infrastructure performance challenges, and that the return on investment is unparalleled.
For more information, check out the press release issued by Virtual Instruments.
You can also download this report directly from Virtual Instruments.